Anatomy of a Reunion: Part 2 – Prepping for the Gathering

Tracy, my brother, ends up being my chauffeur for the day.So I’m in the company of Tracy and his 4-year old daughter, Holland, who plays with her happy meal toys in the back seat, incorporating Tracy and I into the stories she creates. Children are amazing in that way, their imagination run amuck. They have not yet been indoctrinated by the reality that grownups deem correct.And I’m on their side.If they see their best friend Jimmy, who is a dog that no one else sees, and he’s flying through the clouds?Then, by God, Jimmy the Dog is flying through the clouds.I’m not going to be the one to crush their universe.Holland will come to learn the lessons of society.And that day will be a sad one.

I forgot my camera back in LA, which is probably for the best.Carrying around a huge Nikon SLR doesn’t make for good socializing, and people think you’re the hired photographer.Fortunately, Mom had just bought a little digital camera. “I picked it up at the Secret Auction!I just saw it, and had to have it.”I had no idea what a Secret Auction was, but I played along to avoid a long and involved story that would include people that I have never met, or someone who was my babysitter for a day when I was three.“It should be fine.” she says. “I guess you probably need to get a card or something, I don’t think it holds many pictures.”I check the camera.She is, indeed, correct.The internal memory holds eight photos. A little shy of what I was planning on taking.And there were already six photos of my Mom in the camera, mostly of her setting a table.Her husband makes sure that I pull those photos off and put it on his jumpdrive.Because, yeah, those pictures are keepers.He considers himself technosaavy, which makes him just dangerous enough to cause technical problems.He’s the kind of guy who feels that if his computer slows down, obviously people are hacking in from the outside to steal his valuable information.So he delves into his internet router and starts fiddling with things he doesn’t understand until there is no longer ANY Internet connection. And he has to call in a technician.Which, he would never do, because that guy might be trying to steal his valuable information.

Anyway… I conclude that a stop must be made to get a card for the camera.Walgreen’s is the place, and they happen to have an SD card for the camera.I get a hefty bugger – 4 Gigabytes of raw, manly, memory storage.1600 photos.I’m ready.I’m gonna be making photos happen left and right.Jeez, I think, is that going to be enough?But, we’re running late, so this will have to do.

I text my friend Rachel that I’m running late.I blame it on the 4-year old.I find that children are used quite frequently as excuses for shortcomings or inabilities to make deadlines or appointments.I have no children of my own, so I use them to my advantage when I do have them available.

Rachel is also going to the reunion too because, oddly enough, she was in the same class as myself.We were in calculus together for a total of two years, and she sat in front of me. We were considered to be the “smart” kids.At least that was my perception of being inside the circle looking out.However, our little circle was made up of a bunch of deviants, albeit smart deviants, who would gather to cram for the calc exam but the session would ultimately lead to drinking and debauchery.Actually, I don’t remember Rachel in the drinking and debauchery.She’ll have to clear that up.Regardless, we basically passed calculus because we all did so universally poor that we flattened the Bell curve to a Bell line.This doesn’t mean that we didn’t deserve the stamp of “smart”…we simply didn’t apply ourselves.

Rachel and I met back up with one another in Los Angeles after I somehow located her and wrote a cryptic e-mail.She has become my Los Angeles friend ever since, after being my classmate and calculus friend 20 years before.

She and I are meeting at some local bar before the ultimate destination of The Swiss, where everyone else is supposed to gather. In high school nomenclature, this would be the “pre-event event”. We are to partake in a couple drinks in order to settle the pre-reunion jitters.I’m generally unflappable.I can walk into a situation and be totally cool with it. I get to this first bar, and for some reason I’m shaky.I’m shaky waiting to meet Rachel, I’m shaky ordering a beer.I’m just…nervous.Why?Because I didn’t know what to expect.You have 200+ people that you haven’t seen in ages.You don’t know what they thought of you back then.You don’t know what they are going to think of you now.

I find Rachel.Or she finds me.We find each other – is the end result. Rachel has the pre-reunion shakes even worse.She doesn’t remember anyone, nor does she think that anyone remembers her.She was shy back then.She’s shy now.Not that she has any reason to be.She’s blonde, lovely, with a smile that makes her whole face smile.But, she’s a shy one, that Rachel. I won’t delve too much into my own analysis of what Rachel is going through just before meeting people she hasn’t seen in 20 years, because I’m sure her shy side would not want me to do so.So, we shall instead, focus on me.

In order to quell this shyness in her and the nervousness in me we order drinks from the young waitress in too short shorts.I decide on a local micro based on the alcohol percent rather than taste while Rachel orders a gin and soda.Somehow our drinks arrive within about 47 seconds, which both Rachel and I agree is some kind of voodoo, ancient Oracle of Delphi shit goin on.The waitress offers food, but looking at the menu made me feel ill.It was like all the bad bar food I had ever eaten was packaged onto one menu and then deep-fried.I’m frankly surprised that the beer wasn’t deep-fried.

After another round, we decide we’re good to go.Two pints of Snoqualmie Ale with little sleep and no food has already put a spring in my step.Two Gin and Sodas has done the same for Rachel, but she doesn’t drink much and can’t be more than 95lbs soaking wet…which is merely a guess considering I haven’t weighed her soaking wet.Therefore, with a little buzz on, we are ready to roll.Rachel pays for the drinks.We are both used to paying $16 for a martini in Hollywood at happy hour, so the $25 tab for four drinks was really akin to paying a dollar for a gallon of gas.

We hike up the hill in downtown Tacoma to The Swiss.From the outside, it doesn’t appear busy, so I wonder just how many people are going to show.And Rachel and I are arriving on Los Angeles party-arrival time, which is somewhere between half an hour and two hours late.This is because you can never let on that the current event is the only event you’ve got going that night.People have to realize that you are a busy person, and that you are gracing everyone with your presence.We’ve decided that 45 minutes is a good time, anything more would be considered pretentious, any less would be overenthusiastic.

We get closer to the bar, and my mind preps itself for social interaction on a massive scale.In the past, my typical modus operandi would be to go into a venue, sit back, assess the situation for an hour, and then start up conversations, or wait to be pulled into them.I’ve learned in the past few years to go right into a situation and make it my own, whether I know the people or not.I have the advantage in this situation.I pretty much know everyone.But there still is this mental preparation beforehand.Being social is tiring business.Being “on” can be exhausting.

We walk up to the doorman who asks for our IDs. I’m carrying a passport because I somehow someway lost my physical driver’s license and haven’t bothered to spend an otherwise lovely afternoon at the California DMV.My passport photo looks like a cross between Ted Kazinski and Heat Miser.I’m amazed I’m not stopped at the airport for full body cavity searches.The doorman has a laugh about our age, but both Rachel and I could pass for late-twenties.At least Rachel could.I can if the person is drunk and myopic.

We walk in.

My eyes jump from person to person, identifying, categorizing, indexing.I’m like a Terminator.Targeting system performs a retina scan, identifying the classmate, cross referencing them to a photo in the yearbook, pulling up data that I have stored in my memory banks – name, classes, circle of friends, personality.My brain does this naturally, but usually there aren’t so many people that I know in one place.So, I am actually cognizant that my mind is going through the process.

Rachel tugs at my side. “Yeah, I don’t remember anyone.”

I lean over whispering, “Neither does anyone else.”

“You do.”

“Yeah, well, that’s how I roll.Stick with me.Everything will be fine.”

We begin to make our rounds.

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2 thoughts on “Anatomy of a Reunion: Part 2 – Prepping for the Gathering

  1. I love it. Perfectly captures the feeling of that first entry to The Swiss. And I really want to see your passport photo.

  2. It has always been my experience that it’s cheap to be an alcoholic in Tacoma. In fact the Department of Tourism should just go ahead and put that on the sign: “Welcome to Tacoma. Cheap Drinks!”

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